Category Archives: Medical Admissions

July 15, 2015

Race-Based Admissions Bans On Medical Schools

Affirmative Action is still a highly debatable, controversial issue in medical school admissions. In institutions of higher education, affirmative action refers to admission policies that provide equal access to education for those groups that have been historically excluded or underrepresented, including women and minorities. Since the Supreme Court in the Fisher v. University of Texas case voided the lower appellate court’s ruling in favor of the University and remanded the case, there has been an even greater debate about the best practices in admissions.

Eight states have banned medical schools from considering race in admissions, which leads those schools to try other ways to recruit a diverse student body without explicitly asking for race. Schools are increasing their outreach in minority communities to try and reach more diverse applicants. Many schools look at applicants with other socio-econmic factors, like those who have overcome adversity, shown leadership, and displayed a variety of different activities. Others have been giving preference to working-class students or those whose parents did not attend college.

Since race-based admissions bans have passed, there has been noticeable changes in the amount of colored students attending college in states without affirmative action. Before the bans passed, approximately 18% of students were of color, and now after the bans, approximately 15% of students in states with bans are of color. In the example below from the NY Times, Hispanic freshman students at Berkeley have dropped significantly after approving the statewide ban on affirmative action.

Affirmative Action at Berkeley

Admissions offices are forced to think outside of the box to be able to sustain a diverse class.  At the University of Texas at Austin, they have enforced the Top 10 Percent plan, which allows three-quarters of the incoming class to be automatically admitted based on the students’ position in their high school class. The remaining students of the class are admitted after review of academic achievement and other factors.

What is your school proactively doing to maintain a diverse incoming class?

May 13, 2015

Medical School Curriculum Changes

Prospective students in upcoming classes for medical school are going to have a significant change in curriculum than their previous peers. Many medical schools are beginning to take into account the undeniable fact that medical training for doctors should change as the practice of medicine is changing.

Typical medical school curriculum usually involves teaching based around  Abraham Flexner‘s once-famous ’2 Plus 2 Model’, which involves two years in the classroom and two years shadowing in hospitals. The curriculum for medical school is now starting to include classes meant to build communication skills, teamwork, and adaptability to change. The new MCAT makeover released last month, April 2015, has included testing for similar qualities/traits as well. These medical school curriculum changes are going to be taking place at many medical schools, including the University of Michigan Medical School.

Dr. Raj Mangrulkar, the Associate Dean for medical student education at the University of Michigan Medical School states, “Flexner did a lot of great things, but we’ve learned a lot and now we’re absolutely ready for a new model.”

The University of Michigan Medical School is implementing many changes to adapt to a newer, more innovative model. They are including classes within their curriculum based solely on improving communication skills, by giving negotiation scenarios to students to compromise and decide upon solutions with their fellow peers.

“Listed with the new prerequisites is a group of Core Competencies. The four competencies are analytical thought and problem-solving skills, written and verbal communication, mathematical/statistical analysis and application of hypothesis-driven methods of research.” Mangrulkar states, “These competencies began as expectations for residents, but have now trickled down to the pre-medical level.”

Along with the University of Michigan Medical School, many other medical schools have already began to look for those qualities in students and incorporate the search into their admissions process. Medical schools are searching for students who can exhibit not only top grades in school and scores on their MCAT, but also for students who exhibit teamwork, compassion, and communication skills within their activities and experiences. A well-rounded student who has the ability to display intelligence and communication skills, among other traits, is ideally the type of applicant that medical schools would like to extend offers to.

Evaluating applicants based on multiple variables and qualities can become difficult for schools, especially when trying to keep information on each applicant in order. ZAP Solutions admissions software, AMP, has the ability to simplify the process for admissions offices, keeping all student information securely placed in one system. ZAP has been continuously innovating AMP to incorporate new ways to evaluate these changes. AMP has also given schools the capability to use standard interviewing, MMI interviewing, or a hybrid combination. Each step of the admissions process is within AMP, making it easier, faster, and more effective for admissions officers to go through the process from the initial/secondary application to screening, interviewing, reviewing, and matriculation with each applicant. The goal of AMP is to customize the software specifically to each school’s process, growing and innovating with the school through their changes.

How do you think medical schools will continue to incorporate the new changes into their admissions process and curriculum?

April 11, 2015

Key Lessons That Need To Be Taught In Med School Classrooms

A recent News Ok article states that Costa Rica is outperforming the United States in terms of health care and wellness.  How can that be when the United States spends more money on health care than any other country in the world?  Simple, Costa Rica is healthier. Their government spends more money than the U.S. on prevention and wellness.

The United States fails to focus on wellness and chronic disease management in many ways. For example, we don’t consistently control glucose levels in diabetics. This disease will then often go untreated until an emergency situation arises, such as a seizure, a stroke, or a heart attack.  In return, these individuals are then placed on medical disability, commonly resulting in a greater expense than the cost of the original health management. Another major chronic disease is coronary heart disease. Two of the most profitable prescriptions drugs in the U.S., are those that reduce blood cholesterol and prevent blood clots - both symptoms of coronary heart disease.  This raises the question, why spend more on prescriptions than on prevention?

UC Riverside School of Medicine (UCR), located in Southern California, first opened its doors in 2013.  Dean of UCR, Dr. G. Richard Olds, says, “This school was founded on the need for well-trained doctors…We also wanted to demonstrate that a health-care system that rewards keeping people healthy is better than one that rewards not treating people until they become terribly ill.”  The school places a large emphasis on wellness, prevention, chronic disease management, and finding ways to deliver health care in the most cost-effective setting.

Closely related to prevention is wellness.  Many health problems in the U.S. come as a result of self-infliction – smoking, drinking, eating an unhealthy diet, overeating, failure to exercise. An important part of a doctor’s job should be providing the patient with information about healthy eating, exercise, and harmful products; regardless of the behaviors they are currently exhibiting. To accomplish this shift in focus, future doctors must be taught to think with a preventative mentality, right from the beginning.  For that reason, it is vastly important that medical schools in the United States re-evaluate their teaching curriculum and their approach to heath and wellness.

UCR has the right approach in training this country to take a more proactive stance on health and wellness.  This is not a process that will happen overnight  but slowly, this approach could change the face of medical education in the United States on a grand level.

What is your medical school doing to teach students the importance of teaching their future patients about wellness and prevention?

March 26, 2015

A Shortage Of 90,000 Doctors Expected By 2025


Recently there has been a lot of talk about the lack of students enrolling in medical studies. The medical school association fears that if this trend continues, we will see a shortage of 90,000 doctors by the year 2025.

Perhaps the greatest foreseen shortfall will occur in the demand for surgeons.  In particular, surgeons who treat diseases more commonly found in older adults, such as cancer.  ”An increasingly older, sicker population, as well as people living longer with chronic diseases, such as cancer, is the reason for the increased demand,” Darrell G. Kirch, the AAMC’s president and chief executive, told reporters during a telephone news briefing.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has feared a doctor shortage for the past few years, which is why they have been making efforts to support legislation that would funnel more federal money toward its members.  These members include 400 of the nation’s teaching hospitals and 141 medical schools.  The legislation – Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2011 – was proposed for a second time in 2013 and calls for Congress to provide $1 billion a year to support 3,000 more medical residents at hospitals.

Since 1965, Congress has used Medicare and Medicaid to assist in funding the one-year residencies that 28,000 medical school graduates complete each year at the nation’s top teaching hospitals.  On average, it takes about $152,000 to train a resident and the government reimburses hospitals for a portion of that cost through payments in a program called Graduate Medical Education (GME).  In 2012, $5 was spent on GME, which was solely funded by Medicare, according to the Institute of Medicine.  A fact sheet accompanying the estimates says that since 1997, Medicare support for doctors in training has not grown, despite an increase in the number of residents.

Criticized for “wasteful spending” and “lack of accountability”, the AAMC is having difficulty arguing their case to unfreeze GME funds.  Teaching hospitals must report back on how the money is used and could lose it if their residents drop out or don’t pass their boards.  Indirect payments, on the other hand, require no reporting or performance-based standards.

Although it is difficult to know exactly how teaching hospitals are spending the indirect payments, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MPAC), which regularly reviews aspects of Medicare in order to advise Congress, has found that $3.5 billion of these payments are being spent on things unrelated to the training of new doctors. MPAC advises the money be rerouted to a transparent fund that would reward the most productive residency programs and thus put the funds to their best use.

Over the next 10 years, the number of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to increase by 36 percent.  In addition, 32 million younger Americans will become newly insured as a result of Obamacare.  The scary part is that the number of doctors to treat those Americans will grow by only 7 percent, according to the AAMC.

Access to care could get worse for some people before it gets better, said Dr. Andrew Morris-Singer, president and co-founder of Primary Care Progress, a nonprofit in Cambridge, Mass. “If you don’t have a primary care provider,” he said, “you should find one soon.”

AMP Paperless Admissions is helping medical training programs across the U.S. maximize their enrollment process; further encouraging students to pursue a career in the medical field.

February 23, 2015

The MCAT Gets a Makeover


In order to be accepted into medical school, students must take the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test).  The MCAT has traditionally been comprised of 144 questions which are to be completed in a three hour and twenty minute time frame. Prospective med students spend years preparing themselves for this exam; taking classes, joining study groups, purchasing MCAT study books – the list goes on and on.  But, starting April 2015 there will be a new and improved MCAT which promises to be more difficult and extensive.  The purpose is to better forecast how well the student will perform in medical school.

The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) has been conducting research for the past five years in order to constitute these changes.  By surveying faculty, admissions, and deans of medical schools, the AAMC was better able to understand what types of general knowledge and thinking skills are needed by students to succeed in their medical school programs.

Here are some changes that students can expect on the new MCAT:

  • Different scoring scale:  The old MCAT had a total possible score of 45.  On the new MCAT, sections will be scored 118-132, for a total possible score of 528.  The median score is estimated to be around 500.
  • New questions that test a variety of skills: Just like the old MCAT, the new one will test content knowledge and critical thinking, but with the added challenge of two additional skill areas.  The first is Research Design, which focuses on the fundamentals of creating research projects.  The second is Graphical Analysis & Data Interpretation, which focuses on deriving conclusions and drawing inferences from visual data (figures, graphs, tables…).
  • Double the length: Previously, the MCAT was to be completed within a three hour and twenty minute time frame.  The new MCAT now has a maximum time limit of six hours and fifteen minutes – upping the questions from 144 to 230.
  • More prerequisite classes: Three additional semesters’ worth of material will be covered in college-level biochemistry, introductory psychology, and introductory sociology.  This increases the prerequisite class number from eight to eleven.
  • A slight change to the Verbal Reasoning section: Instead of being called Verbal Reasoning, the section will now be titled Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills or CARS.  In addition, the CARS section will no longer include passages on the natural sciences but will instead focus entirely on passages from the humanities and social sciences.

Although the MCAT is never the ultimate decider to get into medical school, it does play a large part in the admission decision. Since the exam is designed to test how students will stand up to the academic rigors of medical school, it is important for all aspiring doctors  to note these monumental changes to the test.

As an added incentive for test takers to not shy away from the new MCAT, the AAMC is offering a $150 Amazon gift card to all students who register for the April 17th or April 18th test dates.

According to Eric Chiu, executive director of pre-medical programs, Kaplan Test Prep, “While the new MCAT is more challenging than the old one, our experience of preparing students for the medical school admissions process for over 40 years tells us that with the right preparation, they will rise to the occasion, and succeed.”

October 7, 2014

Marketing vs. Counseling: The Changing Field of Admissions

In the last couple of decades, and particularly the past few years, colleges have become accessible to more than just the upper-middle-class. What used to be “the ideal college” is no longer tied to one demographic or set of qualities. Students are looking for many different options and features for their future college. With the number of entering college students hovering above 21.8 million and the number of accredited colleges nearing seven thousand, the options are bountiful and so are the students’ preferences.  Admission staffs are now forced to balance the needs of the institutions and the ever increasing and diversifying applicant pool.  Admission staffs are constantly struggling with enrolling students that will “ensure a college’s financial stability”, diversify and enrich the student population, and become substantial additions to the institution. In many cases, these requirements do not always match up, causing drifts between the financial and academic departments and leaving the admissions staff stuck in the middle. A field traditionally known as ‘counseling’ has turned into ‘marketing’.

Admission staffs are now starting to look more like marketing teams and this raises the stress levels on many of the officers who are not used to spending as much time and effort with the prospecting process. Institutions are continuously tightening budgets, which is causing an ever increasing rise of dependency on the recruitment and acceptance of future students. Class sizes from year to year are increasing at a phenomenal rate; the number of enrolled students has increased by six million in the last thirteen years – a 38% increase.  The growth in applications and admission duties has left admissions officers in a stressful and time-scarce cycle facing many challenges.

Looking at a bar chart figure from The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Shaping the Class, admissions officers from different levels of colleges and universities are facing many challenges, including maintaining an enrollment focused culture in the institution.

Enrollment Management


The chart above shows just how far the responsibilities and functions of the  admissions officers have changed and expanded. There are ways to minimize and manage the amount of stress within the admissions office. Using scheduling tools, such as Schedule Today, has decreased the amount of time the admission staff have to spend on menial tasks like scheduling appointments and updating calendars. Medical, Law, and Graduate schools are also using programs, such as AMP Admissions Software, to balance the lengthy and in-depth admissions process. By transferring over duties automatically to simplified software, admission staffs are able to manage more time with students and balance tasks with tight budgets.

Although schools are finding ways to stretch budget dollars with prospecting and the admissions process, the question of how to balance a genuine relationship and encouraging ‘sales’ is still unanswered.  In a recent Chronicle article, Dr. Hawkins, director of public policy and research at NACAC, says, “Even though admissions has been around for a long time, the field still isn’t at a point where it has really defined itself. This profession is being shaped right now, and there’s this question of, Are we counselors or are we marketers? Do we understand the emerging markets that we’re trying to tap into? Ideally, you don’t want to see the entire emphasis be on marketing.”

March 4, 2014

Shaking Up the Status Quo of Med School Admissions with Holistic Review

Amidst a looming doctor shortage, the use of holistic review in medical admissions is gaining traction. Holistic review is a an approach to admissions wherein the applicant’s non-cognitive attributes such as personality, empathy, investment in learning, and confidence are reviewed alongside the typical cognitive focused admissions criterion such as test scores, letters of recommendation, and GPA. In taking a step back to look at the applicant as a whole person instead as a set of applicant data, medical schools hope to increase student diversity and engagement, and to ensure the quality and preparedness of future physicians.

Holistic review has been implemented in a handful of medical admissions departments as throughout the country and the Association of American Medical Colleges has shown its’ support by introducing an initiative to explore the topic.  This initiative aims to develop best practices in implementing holistic review in medical schools through inter-institutional collaboration, professional support, and research. For the AAMC, the end goal of holistic review is to ” increase the presence of individuals from underrepresented populations in medicine.”

As defined by the AAMC, holistic review is

“…a flexible, highly-individualized process by which balanced consideration is given to the multiple ways in which applicants may prepare for and demonstrate suitability as medical students and future physicians. Under a holistic review framework, candidates are evaluated by criteria that are institution-specific, broad-based, and mission-driven and that are applied equitably across the entire candidate pool.”

Holistic review offers many benefits for schools that aim to achieve focused changes within their applicant pool. Boston University School of Medicine implemented holistic review in 2003 and later found favorable results in their medical school classes; while standard measures of success (such as test scores and GPA) remained about the same as previous years, they found that diversity increased as well as overall student engagement, both in the classroom and outside.

“The general sense of the faculty, particularly those who teach our small-group problem seminars, is that the students are more collegial, more supportive of one another, more engaged in the curriculum, and more open to new ideas and to perspectives different from their own.” (Witzburgh & Sondheimer)

When considering a jump to holistic review, medical school admissions offices must first carefully evaluate best practices for holistic review, their programs’s mission, and the school’s long term admissions goals. It is important to approach this change with preparedness in mind. AMP paperless admissions is the perfect software tool to handle your new admissions process because their development team recently custom-built a module specifically for a holistic admissions workflow. Very few admissions software companies cater to new trends in admissions, but AMP paperless admissions has always been on the cutting edge of building tools for new admissions processes.

February 18, 2014

Admissions Trends to Watch in 2014

2014With 2013 behind us, it is time to start planning for 2014′s admissions season. By following the ever-changing world of higher education admissions trends, you can ensure that your admissions staff is working to their full potential and that your department is selecting the best fit candidates.

A Focus on Competency

Competency based education gives credit for mastery of skills and real-life work experience. “We actually measure what students know and can do, not how long they’ve spent in a seat,” says Robert Mendenhall, president of Western Governors University (Quinton). A focus on competency credit will help President Obama to achieve his goal of reducing college debt for current and future students.

Next-level Data and Analytic Tools

For years now, an increasing number of schools have been making the switch to admissions software solutions such as AMP online admissions. Analyzing reports on applicant data has become the norm for a well-rounded admissions process. Now, schools are taking that data to the next level and looking for long-term trends in the admissions world. “Performance metrics and dashboards are the beginning, but using data to understand deeper correlations and causality so we can shape change will be critical as we strive to advance our effectiveness,” says David Lassner, interim presided and former chief information officer at the University of Hawaii (The Chronicle).

Price-savvy Prospects

According to data from Sallie Mae, a majority of families eliminated colleges based on cost at some stage during their college shopping and admissions process. Colleges looking for continued steady growth will do well to plan for predicted demographic shifts that foretell a lower volume of high-income applicants. Schools can track their success in recruiting new groups of prospective students by using a prospect module in an end-to-end admissions tool like AMP Paperless Admissions.

 Alternative Admissions

Amidst a looming doctor shortage, medical school admissions have been under the microscope. With a lot of attention on the need for change in medical admissions in 2013, the situation may appear dire at first glance.  However, it is also evident that high pressure breeds creativity. A number of medical schools have implemented new approaches to medical admissions. At the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai University, their innovative FlexMed option allows students to apply without completing a PreMed program or taking the MCAT. Several schools have begun taking a holistic approach to applicant review, evaluating non-cognitive personality traits for compatibility with the medical profession. Additionally, Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) have begun to gain traction as an alternative to the traditional 1-on-1 office interview.

What is your admissions office doing differently in 2014?

December 17, 2013

A New Essay Application Pipeline at BARD

Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about new approaches to higher education admissions processes. One of the latest trends is a holistic review approach, designed to evaluate the student’s personality as well as intellect. In the medical school admissions arena, a few schools are admitting a select number of students from the humanities instead of pre-medical pipelines. And now, Bard College offers a path to admission based solely on the submittal of four 2,500 word research essays.

According to the Bard College website,

“The exBARD Essay Applicationamination enables motivated students to gain admission through an essay test, engaging applicants in a process that more closely mirrors actual college coursework. The examination is composed of essay questions in three categories: Social Science, History, and Philosophy; Arts and Literature; and Science and Mathematics. Applicants are required to complete four of 21 questions.”

The students who opt to write four essays will be exempt from the traditional review process wherein they are evaluated based on GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and letters of recommendation, among other factors. Theoretically, under the new method of admission, a student with terrible grades and no SAT could prove themselves worthy of BARD admissions by achieving the equivalent of a B+ on each essay.

“It’s kind of declaring war on the whole rigmarole of college admissions and the failure to foreground the curriculum and learning,” Leon Botstein, Bard’s President of 38 years, said in an interview cited by the New York Times. He adds that the legacy system of admissions is “loaded with a lot of nonsense that has nothing to do with learning,” and labelled the essay approach as “return to basics, to common sense” and added, “You ask the young person: are they prepared to do university-level work?”

Applicants will have 16 prompts to choose from, ranging in topics from Philosophy to Mathematics to Literature. Bard will also provide source materials on those 16 topics, including a Nobel speech, a UN Charter, and research publications. This will ensure a level playing field for students who may not have access to these relevant materials through their high school curricula or local libraries, but students are not limited to the source materials provided. The admissions office assures students, “this is not a test of what you already know; rather it is an opportunity to demonstrate close reading, critical thinking, and the ability to interpret problems. It is an effort to connect testing to learning.”

At first blush, this route to admission might seem like a soft option, but further investigation reveals that it is anything but. Although the essay prompts and source material are provided, the topics for discussion are intellectually challenging even for college students. As an example, here is one essay prompt provided in the new Bard application:

In the Analects, Confucius identifies the cardinal virtue of ren (variously translated as goodness, humanity, benevolence) with many different attitudes and behaviors. Yet Confucius also says, “There is one thread that runs through my doctrines.“ Commentators differ about what that one thread is. What, in your opinion, could that one thread be? How does that one thread tie together the wide range of moral values that Confucius celebrates in the Analects? Support your answer by interpreting specific passages from the text.

Implementing a daring new admissions process is a daunting task for admissions departments. Building an entirely separate process and pipeline for essay applications could definitely be an overwhelming situation for admissions staff and participating faculty graders. When new departmental workflows are rolled out in higher education admissions, it is best to consult with admissions systems experts to ensure a smooth transition. A software such as AMP paperless admissions is the perfect go-to for building new admissions systems. With AMP, there are no two admissions systems that are the same. Their team of developers are always building new admissions systems to suit their client’s needs, whether it be an entirely new process like essay admissions or building the software to adhere to a legacy admissions process.

What does your school think of the new essay applications at BARD College?

November 6, 2013

Takeaway from the 2013 AAMC Annual Meeting

We are finally back in Pittsburgh after a long, eventful weekend in Philadelphia for the AAMC Annual Meeting! We hope you were able to stop at our booth this year to talk to an admissions expert about AMP. If you didn’t have the time to say hello, please feel free to schedule a demo of AMP.

2013 AAMC Annual

This year’s meeting was bigger than ever with over 5,000 attendees, making it one of the largest gatherings of leaders in academic medicine. This premiere event in academic medicine allows leaders from all different institutions and backgrounds to give fresh perspectives on current academic medicine issues, news, trends, and concerns.

A variety of sessions were held, with topic discussions ranging from MOOCS to GME to the doctor shortage.This year, there has been constant discussion about what can be done to moderate the Affordable Care Act’s effect on academic medicine. In a session titled ‘Envisioning Changes in Health Care,’ Dr. Ian Morrison, health care futurist and author, discussed the rapidly changing landscape of health care and the impact of the Affordable Care Act on academic medicine.

Another topic of concern for attendees is the affect of the recent government shutdowns on academic medicine. A session led by Dr. Darrell Kirch, the AAMC CEO and President, discussed how the government shutdown has made it more difficult for institutions to accomplish their missions in education, clinical care, and research.

One of the most pressing topics discussed was the shortage of doctors and how institutions can manage the shortage of residency programs at medical schools and hospitals. Currently, medical school applications have reached record highs, with a 5.8% increase from 2012 to 2013. This increase, as well as increased enrollment at osteopathic schools, helps to alleviate the doctor shortage issue. However, this increased enrollment will soon highlight the lack of residency positions available to medical students. This past year, 528 medical school graduates were unable to find a job among the government’s 115,000 government allotted residency programs. If the current increase in residency slots of 1% per year continues, hospitals will be 2,000 positions short for graduates by 2021. This is very concerning for medical school graduates, who have an average of $180,000 in debt. Students can’t afford to not find a job immediately after graduation. At the AAMC annual meeting, the greatest minds in medicine get together to strategize solutions to complicated issues such as the doctor shortage.

This year’s AAMC meeting highlighted many important topics related to academic medicine. This opportunity to share ideas will enable the attendees to evaluate their best practices in managing their school, with the resources that are available. The annual meeting is always an excellent opportunity for attendees to learn more about the latest in academic medicine, and we cannot wait to attend next year’s meeting in Chicago.